6 of the biggest takeaways from Prince Harry ghostwriter’s behind-the-scenes story

·6-min read

The Duke of Sussex’s ghostwriter JR Moehringer has revealed the behind-the-scenes making of Harry’s memoir Spare.

To write the autobiography, Moehringer says he and Harry spoke “around the clock” about the book on Zoom, on the phone, via text, and eventually, in person at Harry’s home in Montecito, California.

In the controversial book, which was released in January, Harry was critical of his family and made several claims about how his brother William treated him, alleging that the Prince of Wales physically attacked him. He also revealed very personal details, such as the account of losing his virginity, his frostbitten penis and the number of soldiers he killed while on military tour in Afghanistan.

The Duke of Sussex’s autobiography became the UK’s fastest-selling non-fiction book ever, recording figures of 400,000 copies across hardback, ebook and audio formats on its first day of publication, its publishers said in the week of its release.

In an article written for The New Yorker, Moehringer, who also ghostwrote the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight, has discussed how the making of the memoir was not a smooth journey. He recalled some teary-eyed moments with the duke, and also a row about a story about Diana, and what it was like staying in Harry and his wife Meghan’s Los Angeles home.

Here are the biggest revelations made by Moehringer:

Late-night row over Princess Diana story left Harry with ‘flushed cheeks and narrowed eyes’

The ghostwriter alleges that he and Harry found themselves in a disagreement over a passage discussing the duke’s late mother, Diana, Princess of Wales.

‘Spare’ became the fastest-selling non-fiction book ever in its first week of release (PA Wire)
‘Spare’ became the fastest-selling non-fiction book ever in its first week of release (PA Wire)

During the summer of 2022, Moehringer said that he and Harry and been reviewing edits over a Zoom call at 2am when they reached a passage discussing Diana.

In the excerpt in question, Harry is subjected to terrorism training by military personnel posing as insurgents.

Moehringer advised Harry not to include the story in the memoir, and they subsequently disagreed on the matter, leading them to apparently “shout” at each other.

“At last, Harry’s captors throw him against a wall, choke him, and scream insults into his face, culminating in a vile dig at Princess Diana,” Moehringer wrote.

​​“And yet some part of me was still able to step outside the situation and think, ‘This is so weird. I’m shouting at Prince Harry.’ Then, as Harry started going back at me, as his cheeks flushed and his eyes narrowed, a more pressing thought occurred: ‘Whoa, it could all end right here.’”

Finally, Moehringer said, Harry “exhaled” and “calmly explained” that he wanted to include the line because, after years of having his intellect belittled, this would show how he had still “had his wits about him”, even after being “kicked and punched and deprived of sleep and food”.

Regardless, Moehringer insisted that it was unnecessary to include the line, writing in the New Yorker: “Strange as it may seem, memoir is not about you. It’s not even the story of your life.”

He said that Harry took this decision in good humour but added, with a “mischievous grin”, that he “really [enjoyed] getting you worked up like that”.

The Independent has contacted representatives of the Duke of Sussex for comment.

Moehringer and his family were ‘stalked’ and by members of the press

Spare became the fastest-selling non-fiction book in the UK of all time when it was published in January 2023.

Moehringer said that following the publication, the response had been that of a “frenzied mob” and that he and his family had been targeted by the paparazzi.

“The British press now converted the book into their native tongue, that jabberwocky of bonkers hot takes and classist snark,” he said.

“Facts were wrenched out of context, complex emotions were reduced to cartoonish idiocy, innocent passages were hyped into outrages – and there were so many falsehoods.”

He recalled how while taking his son to preschool, he had been “stalked” by a paparazzo, who had stood in the middle of a road to take a picture.

In the first-person piece, the novelist said that the experience had helped him understand Harry better after his name was leaked ahead of Spare’s publication.

JR Moehringer also ghostwrote the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight (Getty Images)
JR Moehringer also ghostwrote the memoir of Nike founder Phil Knight (Getty Images)

Harry and Meghan looked after Moehringer when he was homesick

Moehringer visited Harry and Meghan’s home in Montecito, California, on several occasions while he was working on the book.

He wrote that when he visited the duke and duchess in California with his wife and children, his daughter Gracie’s heart was “won over” by Harry’s love of Moana.

“As the pandemic waned, I was finally able to travel to Montecito. I went once with my wife and children. (Harry won the heart of my daughter, Gracie, with his vast Moana scholarship; his favourite scene, he told her, is when Heihei, the silly chicken, finds himself lost at sea),” the author wrote.

Moehringer also recalled two other trips to Harry and Meghan’s house during which he stayed in the couple’s guest house. He claimed that Meghan and the duke and duchess’s now-four-year-old son Prince Archie would visit him during their afternoon walks.

Moehringer “really likes” Prince Harry

“I just liked the dude,” Moehringer writes about the first time he spoke with Harry in 2020. “I called him ‘dude’ right away; it made him chuckle. I found his story, as he outlined it in broad strokes, relatable and infuriating.”

He continued: “The way he’d been treated, by both strangers and intimates, was grotesque. In retrospect, though, I think I selfishly welcomed the idea of being able to speak with someone, an expert, about that never-ending feeling of wishing you could call your mom.”

Moehringer and Prince Harry shared a tearful moment

After what had been a long and emotional journey working together, the pair celebrated the book’s release by raising a glass together before a teary-eyed Harry thanked his publishing team and editor.

“He mentioned my advice, to ‘trust the book,’ and said he was glad that he did, because it felt incredible to have the truth out there.”

"There were tears in his eyes. Mine, too,” wrote Moehringer.

Harry seemed ‘overjoyed’ after the book was finally released

Moehringer recalled attending a party for the launch of Harry’s book, and when he arrived, he was worried that Harry was not happy.

“He appeared, marching toward us, looking flushed,” Moehringer wrote. “Uh-oh, I thought, before registering that it was a good flush. His smile was wide as he embraced us both.”

“He was overjoyed by many things. The numbers, naturally. Guinness World Records had just certified his memoir as the fastest-selling nonfiction book in the history of the world.”